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Saab and Salomon: Partners in Automotive Design for Active Living

The Saab 9-4X BioPower Concept extends a long-standing partnership between Saab and Salomon. Both brands share a passion for progressive design and technical innovation, so it was a natural next step to take the relationship into the field of automotive design.

Leading Saab Salomon Big Mountain skiers, Kaj Zachrisson from Sweden and Frenchman Enak Gavaggio, took time out to meet the designers, telling them all about their activities and what sort of practical features they would most like to see in a car.

“It was fascinating talking to Kaj and Enak,” said Andrew Dyson, a senior member of the advanced design team. “They spend a lot of time outdoors in all sorts of conditions. Their cars and how they carry their equipment are an essential part of what they do. They came up with plenty of ideas and suggestions for us to work with.”

“They made it very clear that carrying valuable skis in a roof box was far from ideal. They were concerned about security and did not want to have to keep taking a box on and off the car. When the snow conditions are right, they need to move quickly and do not want to lose time kitting the car out.”

Dyson's team devised a neat, easy-to-use means of stowing up to three pairs of skis and poles inside the car. For easy loading, the 9-4X BioPower Concept has a sliding rear floor, from which a sturdy, U-shaped aluminum frame can be folded out. Each leg of the frame carries a pair of clips, through which the skis and poles slot. They thread through the cabin, between the two rear seats, holding the skis firmly in place while also allowing passengers to sit in the rear.

Talking to the skiers, Dyson and the team realized that safe stowage for helmets would be another useful feature, so two expanding pouches, each designed to carry up to two helmets, are fixed either side of the load area. And a separate compartment under the sliding floor, large enough to accommodate up to three pairs of ski boots, was another feature appreciated by the skiers. The compartment, with a shelf for smaller items, is also heated via the car's air conditioning system, which helps the kit to dry out and prevents wet boots becoming hard and stiff.

After a challenging day off-piste, a skier's kit can become wet and grimy, so the entire rear cargo area, including the underfloor compartment and folding seat-backs, is covered in a waterproof, rubber ‘skin' A vent in the bottom of the underfloor compartment allows water the drain away and the rubber skin is easy to keep clean.

“It was a great opportunity to talk with Saab about designing such practical features “ said Kaj Zachrisson. “A car like this would be an active partner, just like the rest of my equipment, in helping me enjoy what I love to do.”

“Our co-operation with the skiers is a good example of how we can develop smart features to meet specific customer needs,” added Dyson. “It would be possible to have different design elements in a car to support a whole range of outdoor sports and activities.”

The Saab/Salmon partnership in mountain sports includes joint sponsorship of teams and events in multisport, mountain biking and free skiing. “Both brands share common values and customers who have an independent mind-set,” said Knut Simonsson, Saab's Executive Director, Global Brand and Sales Operations.

“We're passionate about the idea of progressive product design for improved performance that's at one with nature. It was a logical next step for us to work together on this concept, showing how the car can become part of the adventure.”

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